The Guardian November 20, 2002


Dajarra wins fight for water

After decades of struggle Dajarra residents say they are "overjoyed" at 
the news they will finally have clean drinking water. Up until now Dajarra 
water has been rendered undrinkable by the high bacteria and mineral 
levels, forcing residents to drive to a tank outside of the town for their 
supplies.

"The people of Dajarra have suffered for long enough and the news that 
finally something is happening is like an early Christmas present for us", 
said ATSIC Regional Councillor and Dajarra resident Jason Connolly.

Dajarra, population 270, lies 150km south of Mount Isa in Cloncurry Shire, 
in Queensland. In its heyday Dajarra was the largest trucking centre in the 
world, with cattle brought in from all over north-west Australia to be put 
on the train to the Townsville meatworks.

"The people of Dajarra have been waiting for this day for more than a 
decade and we are pleased that the local and state governments are going to 
meet their obligations", said Noel Sarmardin, Chair of the ATSIC Gulf and 
West Queensland Regional Council.

The $477,000 funding required for the project has finally been allocated to 
the Cloncurry Shire Council by the Queensland Department of Local 
Government and Planning.

For many years the Queensland and other state governments have expected 
ATSIC to provide basic services like water and sewerage to townships 
despite the fact that water supplies are the responsibility of local and 
state governments.

Such buck passing by state and local governments is a serious problem for 
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, as highlighted in a 
recent Commonwealth Grants Commission report into funding of Indigenous 
communities.

That report called for equitable provision of services to Indigenous 
communities and pointed out that "mainstream programs and services have the 
same responsibility to assist Indigenous Australians as other Australians".

"I only hope that other predominately Aboriginal townships don't have to go 
through what we've put up with for years.

"Imagine whitefellas in south-east Queensland having to daily collect their 
water in bottles from a bore at the edge of their town. It just wouldn't 
happen.

"We are ratepayers, we are citizens of this country and this State and yet 
for some reason we've had to wait years for the same access to water other 
Queenslanders take for granted", concluded Councillor Connolly.

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